By Susan Feinberg
When FIU students David Shor and Leonard Foret packed their bags and headed for the Independent University of Moscow in September, where they are participating in the Math in Moscow program, they weren’t sure what to expect.
“Based on cultural stereotypes, I thought that Russia would be a harsh, unfriendly place, but it’s been a huge surprise,” said Shor. “People are really nice here.”
The FIU students take classes with 18 other scholarship winners from around the world and one course with Russian students, who go out of their way to make them feel welcome and show them around Moscow.
“Our professors split the classes up into problem sessions and quiz us to make sure that we understand what’s going on,” Foret explained. “One of our classmates from Stanford University told us that this is much harder than what he’s used to.”
It’s a no-frills lifestyle at the dormitory where they’re living, which costs $100 a semester. “We have to cook for ourselves and take communal showers, which took some getting used to,” Shor admitted.
“The mattresses in the dormitory are so thin – they’re like something that you take to the beach,” he added. “I have to stack up four of them so I can sleep.”
Shor and Foret are learning Russian and have had no problems using the Metro and navigating their way to restaurants and stores around Moscow.
Occasionally, their lack of familiarity with the language causes a minor glitch. “We went to the grocery store and bought a can of what we thought was tomato sauce and put it on spaghetti, and it turned out to be ketchup,” Foret explained.
Foret and Shor are enjoying the experience, and hope to get another scholarship that will extend their stay in Russia through the spring semester.
“FIU students who are thinking about participating in this program should just come and not worry about anything – but pack some extra mattresses,” Shor advised.